View Full Version : Dug wells

11-03-2010, 01:59 AM
Anyone tell me what the problem is with dug wells? I saw a property that has one....they told me that the water was tested a couple of times and did not pass. They buy drinking water. Problem is of course even washing and bathing is no good. Is there a way to fix this well or should it be redone in your opinion? I've never had a well and am concerned.

This well is 3ft wide and they said 8 to 10ft deep....the cover is wood with roof tile shingles and lined with plastic. As you can see the metal lining in the well is rusting too. Any ideas about fixing this? Thanks!



11-03-2010, 05:12 PM
Welcome, Wolfmoon!

There are too many variables with hand dug and/or bored wells, to do more than give some general comments. Hope these will help get you started on what's applicable specifically with the well in question.

First, bored or hand dug wells tap into the layer of water that's trapped above a layer of rock, in most places. This is referred to as ground water. It is more subject to pollution than water that comes from water that's trapped between layers of rock. This type of well is drilled and is small in diameter and goes much deeper into the earth. There are exceptions.

A well that's only 8'-10' deep is much more likely to be contaminated than deeper wells that are dug/bored. Can't tell from the pix because I can't see the "lay of the land". Your "well" may have actually been a spring that someone dug out and installed a "casing".

If it is a good spring, all that may be needed is to clean it out and replace that galvanized pipe with a concrete casing. This is where it's important to know why the well failed the water tests. And, too, how the testing was done. Dipping a test vial into a shallow well that hasn't been used in a long time is very likely to give bad results. There's been no material movement of the water to keep contaminates from accumulating.

Generally there are two broad types of contamination. One is bacteria of the type that can cause illness. The other is a chemical contamination that renders the water unusable. The source of either of these determines if the well can be treated and then used without concern.

Some examples that MAY apply to your well. With the poor cover, a mouse could have gotten in and died. The galvanized pipe may be leaching zinc into the water. (Both of those can be remedied.) There may be a septic tank or farm animal operation nearby that's polluting the well water. High nitrates, pesticides, and/or herbicides from a farming operation may be doing the same. As with a manufacturing operation using chemicals. And, there may be a naturally occuring factor that makes water unusable in your area. These usually can't be corrected.

After being so long winded, my advice is to contact people with expertise in this field specific to your area. Have the water tested yourself to find out exactly what's wrong. Make sure the test is done in accordance with guidelines as to how the sample should be taken.

With the test results in hand, contact professionals. Take recommendations from people trying to sell you something, until you can confirm their recommendations are sound. A well drilling company wants to drill a well for you. Some may not tell you that your well can be made usable. (If that's actually possible.)

Oh, almost forgot....... With this well and any other regardless of type, you need to know the gallons per minute the well will produce. And the seasonal affects of dry weather and extended drought.

In closing, I have a 30' bored well that supplies good water, even during periods of drought. Can't tell you how fortunate we were with our well. Neighbors 1/2 mile away, both north and south, had to drill wells. Wells to the south of us range from about 125' to over 500'. Some about 2 miles from us go dry fairly frequently.

Mentioned the last, as just a comment on how much wells can vary, even within a relatively small area.

Again, hope some of this reply will help get you started on your research.


11-03-2010, 06:35 PM
Oh, almost forgot....... With this well and any other regardless of type, you need to know the gallons per minute the well will produce. And the seasonal affects of dry weather and extended drought.

i would think this would be the first thing to address - simple enough to fire up a portable pump and pump it dry and see how long it takes to recharge - not much of a point ascertaining or rectifying any issue with water quality if the well won't or can't supply enough to be of real use anyway -

11-03-2010, 08:06 PM
Wow thanks you guys!! Very helpful. I know they tried a few times to get the water to acceptable levels but levels of what I don't know. I had a feeling that this well was not done correctly...I almost always hear about getting the drilled wells and they go so far down you can drink the water even. That was a great idea too about pumping it out....I'm guessing they wouldn't let me do that lol...but a suggestion I might have to use :) Thanks again so much!

11-04-2010, 12:00 AM
Can you use bad well water like this for watering flowers/veg?

11-09-2010, 09:34 PM
Lee had a lot of good advice; these shallow wells are just too vulnerable to contamination. There's no protection for the water and not enough soil to filter out contaminants - and at that depth, bacteria will flourish. You need to be pulling water from a protected aquifer that is deep enough to be cold so the bacteria don't grow.

If it is a spring, it may be possible to rehab it and get it flowing again, as mentioned.

The levels they are testing are probably coliform bacteria. The coliform family is large; they are present everywhere in the environment, on counters, shopping carts and door handles, in soil, the air and unprotected ground water or surface water. They are used as an indicator organism since they are numerous and easy to test for. They should not be present in a safe, properly constructed water source. The presence of coliform bateria in water will not always make you sick, and when it does, it usually seems like you've just had the flu for a few days. But the presence of coliform bacteria may indicate that other, even worse bugs, are also present, such as fecal coliform bacteria, which comes from the digestive tract of warm blooded animals. This dug well could very easily have dead rodents in it, or be subject to run off that has dog poop or cow poop in it, which would make it unsafe to drink. I've seen many a dug well with happy little critters swimming in it, or dead rats floating in it....

Another 'level' they may be testing for is nitrates. Nitrates come from fertilizer and sewage, and when in the water can cause 'blue baby' syndrome.

I'd definitely have it tested before using it to water the garden. If it is contaminated with fecal coliforms you don't want to use it on your veggies.

If you need more info let me know and I can send you some links from work.

11-10-2010, 12:22 AM
Hi yes please send me the links for more info....sorry for some reason I wasn't getting my notifications. I really appreciate this information. Today the sellers agent was trying to convince me that it's fine....yikes. I'm really grateful to be able to access and pick everyones brains here! So much I am learning. Thanks everyone!!

11-10-2010, 12:25 AM
ps...what is blue baby syndrome?

11-11-2010, 09:11 PM
From Wiki: "Methemoglobinemia is a disorder characterized by the presence of a higher than normal level of methemoglobin (metHb) in the blood. Methemoglobin is an oxidized form of hemoglobin that has almost no affinity for oxygen, resulting in almost no oxygen delivery to the tissues. When its concentration is elevated in red blood cells, tissue hypoxia can occur."

Basically what happens is when babies are given water high in nitrates, their bodies are not developed enough to handle it, and the hemoglobin in their blood cannot carry enough oxygen. In bad cases they turn blue and can die.

I've been busy outside taking advantage of the Indian summer so I don't have the links right at hand, but if you search some of the other water threads here in the forum I posted some info a couple of months ago.

For sure google 'water contamination Walkerton Ontario' - people died, and the contaminated well was a crock or dug style well. Also look for wellowner.org.

Hmmm...'seller's agent' - someone who stands to make money from the sale? Glad you're not taking their word for it.

What area of the country are you in? Most states have health departments that can give you a lot of information on local water supplies. We have a lot of the old dug wells and cisterns here.

12-16-2010, 07:52 PM
I know I'm coming in late to this thread - but I just wanted to express gratitude for all the info! My Grandpa had 2 wells on our property, both are currently not in use (he went to city water a decade or so ago), but I would like to get at least one of 'em back up and running.

The neighbor also has a pair, one about 14 ft, and another at around 30. He actively uses both to water his plants and I think to drink also. If the exixting wells are not recoverable, I was thinking of (quietly) digging a new one at some point. I happen to live on a former river flood plain, so the water moves quite a bit and is there year-round.

12-18-2010, 07:28 AM
Flush the wells and get the water tested. Our well is 30' deep and yields a good supply of clean water. Due to it's location it isn't subject to anything nearby that can contaminate it. Closest neighbors are a half mile away. No animal feeding operations nearby, etc.

Take a look at the locations of those wells. Look for septic tanks, industry, flooding potential, and if the wells can be contaminated from surface drainage during rain storms.

Even if the water isn't safe for drinking, straight from the well, depending on what's causing the problem, the next step is to find out what's needed to make the water safe to drink. And, that doesn't mean that you have to buy a high priced water filtration system, in order to have safe drinking water in a SHTF. Take a look here to see if there's anything you can use, based on what your test results yield.


Hope this helps.